When everything goes wrong

Once can read ‘Dar es Salaam partly cloudy’ when suddenly the winds increase… Photo: Dan Hartwright

Sometimes everything seems to go wrong.

Just as I’m set for an active day, the fan stops working — it’s a planned (or unplanned?) outage by Tanesco, which will usually last for the day. There go my plans.

Some phone calls can still be made, but amazingly the many numbers of our bank, a major airline and even the TRA, to name a random few, frequently remain unanswered.

When someone responds they tell me, ‘we will call you back.’ Which doesn’t happen.

Communication can take days or weeks, let alone managing to get things sorted.

Then there’s the weather. Dar Es Salaam is included in international weather websites but obviously the data does not come from a local station.

Amazingly, one can read, ‘Dar es Salaam partly cloudy’ when suddenly the winds increase, the sky darkens and rain pours down with a vengeance, leaving us with at least 15 mm of water.

But then there are other days when a morning walk to an early meeting is a pleasure.

Around the corner I am greeted with the most amazing view of the bay where, with the outgoing tide, fishermen are pulling their nets.

A giant heron and other waders stalk the wet sands for food.

At Mama Ntilie’s restaurant wood is being chopped for cooking breakfast.

Other pedestrians are on their way to somewhere and not yet in the mood for calling out Mzungu!

Close to the mosque Mama Chapati is setting up her fire and cooking kit.

As always she greets me with kwema? which needs the answer kwema.

As she remembers the last time I started off early and returned completely soaked she remarks, ‘no rain today.’

We both laugh as I confirm that for now all is fine and we’ll see what the weather brings later.

The beauty around me abounds and surrounded by the warmth of people I just know from walking down the road: even when everything goes wrong, most days I feel I’m almost in paradise.

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek

Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.